A closer look at those who work with memories

A word from the director

Jean-Franois Leclerc, crdit: milie Tournevache, Service de laudiovisuel (UQM)Youre part of history! is the Centre dhistoires message to all Montrealers whatever their interests, occupations or origins through its exhibitions, educational activities, and projects in the boroughs.

Their everyday experience of the city and its neighbourhoods of its places and events adds a human dimension to the knowledge found in the written and visual archives. It also reveals the hidden history of buildings and streets, the places that constitute our common heritage, rendering it more accessible and evocative for the majority of citizens.

For individual memories to enrich our collective memory, we must know how to present them advantageously, but also how to dig into them, even challenge them, to get the best from them. Montreals cultural diversity is often highlighted as a distinguishing feature of Quebecs metropolis.

To fully reveal this diversity, the Centre dhistoire has directed its attention to the citys inhabitants, training its cameras on them and holding out its microphones to them. Gradually, by means of several projects, not only a diversity of origins, languages, and traditions has been revealed, but also the diversity of opinions, human experiences, and ways of life that makes the urban scene so fascinating and enriching. Starting ten years ago, the Centre dhistoire de Montral has patiently carried out the task of listening to Montrealers and showcasing their memories at the museum and in city boroughs.

The CHM is interested in both the tangible and intangible heritage of the city and of its citizens, who hold the keys to important aspects of Montreals history. The Lost Neighbourhoods exhibition is an opportunity for the institution to publicly reaffirm this evergrowing commitment.

Jean-Franois Leclerc.

Catherine Charlebois, project director, oral history and memory

Catherine CharleboisAutumn, 2009: the massive project of the Lost Neighbourhoods exhibition was launched. Over 6000 photographs of the Archives of the City of Montreal documenting the former neighbourhoods were our inspiration. Our objective was to bring three working-class neighbourhoods, the Red Light district, the Fauboug m’lasse and Goose Village, back to life. Between the 1950s and 1970s, major urban renewal projects the construction of Les Habitations Jeanne-Mance, the Radio-Canada tower, the infrastructures for Expo 67, and the Ville-Marie expressway resulted in the expropriation, eviction, and displacement of more than 20,000 people from older inner-city neighbourhoods.

The collection of information took place in two stages. Documentary research brought data, statistics, maps, plans, and written, photographic, and audio-visual records of these neighbourhoods and of the movement to modernize the city. Parallel to the documentary research, for nine months, the field team carried out 43 filmed interviews involving 55 participants, a total of over 100 hours of shooting. Thirty-nine former residents, 7 planners active during the crucial period, and 9 presentday experts give their views on past and present transformations of the city.

The interviews carried out have given us a story which is at the same time knowledgeable and detailed, individual and collective, human and emotional the story of the great urban upheaval that metamorphosed Montreal in the second half of the 20th century. The interviews have given a voice to the citizens who were uprooted, to professionals who explain the issues of the period, and to today’s observers who evaluate its legacy. Taken as a whole, this testimony has forged a discourse that allows us to reflect on the past and to dream of the Montreal of the future.

Stphanie Lacroix, researcher-interviewer

Stphanie LacroixLost Neighbourhoods is the 50 people who were willing to talk to me, as well as all Montrealers, for their memories, opinions, and expertise. The process began by an intensive search for potential participants: former residents, period experts and contemporary observers. Ingenuity and patience were needed to locate these guardians of memory, as it wasn’t easy to track them down decades after the events. Public announcements, newspaper advertisements, telephone calls, word of mouth, and social networking: all these strategies were used!

From Bolton to Saint-Sauveur and from LaSalle to Pointe-aux-Trembles, accompanied by Marc or Antonio with their cameras and occasionally by Bernard for the sound equipment, I was able to gather hundreds, even thousands of memories. Over a cup of coffee and tasty homemade cake, the Landrys, Petrellis, Brochus, Gagliettas, Pauzs and others showed me their photo albums and told me stories of their lives in neighbourhoods that have been forgotten by the majority of Montrealers today. It was with laughter in their voices, tears in their eyes and feelings of poignant nostalgia that they so generously shared their treasure chests of memories and anecdotes, like precious little gifts. Needless to say, listening to them stirred a whole range of emotions in me. In a way, no more no less, they were entrusting me with THEIR parcel of history, THEIR life moments, THEIR Montreal.